THE IMPORTANCE OF MEMORY IN POLITICS
A media analysis on how remembrance after a fascist past affects a society’s view on far-right populism
The aim of this thesis is to analyse how the collective memory narrative of a country with a fascist past influences the way society views far-right populist parties today. I employ a comparative approach of Germany and Spain as two European countries that were ruled by fascist dictatorships in the 20th century resulting from internal political struggles rather than outside forces. By employing media as a proxy for society’s views, I conduct a dictionary-based, automated sentiment analysis of conservative newspaper articles, to examine society’s attitudes towards far-right populist parties. This relatively novel qualitative methodology allows the categorization of textual data according to negative, neutral, or positive attitudes. Through a keyword analysis I ensure that these attitudes are related to the fascist past and thus a result of the collective memory present in the country. I find that, in a country with a collective responsibility, namely Germany, which is characterized by re-elaborating and making amends for the past, societal stigma towards the far-right populist party is high, leading to a mostly negative stance towards this party in relation to the fascist past. In a country with a disputed collective memory, namely Spain, which is characterized by various narratives about the fascist past existing alongside each other, the stigma towards the far-right populist party is low, leading to a mostly neutral stance towards this party in relation to the fascist past. Through my findings and the definition of a new collective memory sub-type I contribute to the growing research on the connection between collective memory and far-right populism.